The time for teenagers to seek summer jobs has arrived. Subsequently, hiring employers, along with job-seeking teenagers and their parents, would be wise to become familiar with the restrictions imposed by federal and state child labor laws.
In summary, federal child labor law:
- Generally sets the minimum legal work age at 14
- Limits the work hours that employers may schedule for minors of age 14-15
- Restricts the type of work that minors of age 14-15 may perform
- Prohibits employing minors under age 18 in hazardous jobs
Federal child labor law is governed by the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA), a landmark federal labor law that also governs the minimum wage, overtime pay and equal pay. The FLSA is enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), which strictly enforces the child labor provisions.
Under the FLSA, employers may pay a subminimum wage to workers under age 20 for the first 90 days of their employment, which is less than the standard rate for older workers.
Although the minimum legal work age under the FLSA is 14, the rules allow exceptions for certain jobs; examples are delivering newspapers, babysitting, working as an actor or performer, performing chores around one’s home, and working a nonhazardous job in a family-owned business. Children under age 14 may also work nonhazardous jobs in agriculture, under a different set of rules.
The FLSA relaxes work-hour rules for teenagers of age 14-15 for summer jobs from June 1st through Labor Day, because their schools are typically not in session. Still, employers may not schedule teenagers of age 14-15 to work summer jobs before 7 A.M. or after 9 P.M., or to work more than 8 hours per day. In other words, under the FLSA, employers may not schedule overtime hours for minors of age 14-15.
There are no federal rules limiting the hours that teenagers of age 16-17 may work, but they may not work jobs that the DOL has designated as hazardous. Once teenagers reach age 18, most federal youth work rules no longer apply.
The federal FLSA sets only the minimum provisions in all states. States may enact their own child labor laws with more restrictive provisions than those imposed by the FLSA, as many states have; for example, some states require work permits (employment or age certification) of some sort for minors to be employed, while the FLSA does not. Minors who work summer jobs are protected by whichever law at the federal or state level affords the most protection, as are minors who work in other seasons.
This is just a quick summation of child labor laws as they apply to summer jobs for minors. For more information browse YouthRules!, an initiative by the DOL. If you are an employer of youths, you might also browse the appropriate state labor department Web site for child labor law topics.
Consult an attorney for child labor legal advice that fits your particular situation.
As part of their “We Can’t Wait” campaign, the Obama administration recently launched Summer Jobs+. It’s an initiative to help youths find nearby summer jobs, internships, mentoring programs and more.